Alasdair Allan MSP will today (Tuesday) lead a Scottish Parliament debate on the benefits of Gaelic-medium education (GME).

The Western Isles MSP, who will speak in the debate in Gaelic, will welcome Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s decision to enrol pupils entering Primary 1 into GME as the default choice.

The council adopted the GME policy - which was aimed at achieving “a significant rate of growth in Gaelic” in the islands – in December.

The debate comes after Scottish Tory Education spokesperson Liz Smith faced criticism for suggesting that educating pupils in Gaelic was a "worrying" and "troubling" move, which would put children at a “distinct disadvantage” to their peers.

Speaking in the debate, Alasdair Allan MSP will say:

“There are wide-ranging benefits to bilingualism, from increased creativity, to heightened cognitive abilities, to greater job opportunities.

“Having two languages makes the third - and the fourth - easier to learn.

“I commend Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on taking this progressive step to secure the language within its heartland.

“And I would urge them to continue to go further for the language.

“Knowing what we know about the cognitive, cultural and social benefits of bilingualism in a regional language or mother tongue, education in the Gaelic language should be offered in every school, to every child in the Western Isles, and continue to grow elsewhere too.”

Alasdair Allan S5M-20588

Gaelic-medium Education in the Western Isles

That the Parliament welcomes Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s decision to enrol pupils entering P1 into Gaelic-medium education (GME) as the default choice; recognises that parents can still choose to put their children into English-medium education (EME); further recognises that this decision was taken as a majority of parents were expected to enrol their children into GME in 2020; notes that the percentage of children entering GME in Na h-Eileanan an Iar has steadily increased over the last decade; further notes that increasing the level of GME enrolment to 55% was an action in the council’s statutory Gaelic Language Plan; commends Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for becoming the first council in Scotland to take this policy decision; further commends the council for taking what it sees as this progressive step to consolidate the national language in its heartland communities; understands that there is an overwhelming consensus among academics and researchers in support of the cognitive benefits of bilingual education, and reiterates the findings of the 2010 study by the University of Edinburgh, which it understands outlined evidence that GME pupils, on a whole, outperform their EME peers in English reading by P5.

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